Clock ticking on Phoenix survival


Tick tock, tick tock. Can you hear it? Listen closer . . . TICK TOCK TICK TOCK. The sound you hear is time expiring on the Wellington Phoenix’ presence in the A-League.

The situation really has become so bad that it is hard to see a way forward where the club can prosper to be successful by any reasonable measure. Not only is the lack of wins a problem, it’s the lack of interest.

A few months after Football Federation Australia (FFA) boss David Gallop said “You can’t expect to squat on a licence in our competition”, the Phoenix were given an extension (read: lifeline) in February 2016.

It was widely mis-reported they had been given an additional 10-years when, in reality, they had been guaranteed four years, with the option of two further three-year extensions.

All of this, of course, was predicated on the ‘Nix improving crucial performance indicators such as crowd attendance, viewership, membership and television revenue.

And that is without even mentioning performance on the field which, in reality, is a huge driver of those crucial KPIs. Well, that extension was two years ago, and things have gone backwards.

Every conceivable metric has the Wellington club as the weakest link in the competition. The Phoenix have had the worst average crowd over the past two seasons, with a shade over 6000 per home match this season.

Last season it was 8000, so that’s a drop of 25%. Membership is down to only 4200 (a drop of 16% in two years), a number that also props up the league.

Sky TV isn’t obliged to tell us what it buys the A-league rights for, but given the decline in interest in recent seasons it is a nonsense to think they are paying more. Either way, there is no way the FFA is receiving solid revenue streams from out of New Zealand.

And what about the performances of the team? Frankly, they have been extremely poor. They missed the playoffs by six points last season and were wooden-spooners in 2015-16.

This season has been a disaster, with another bottom-place finish on the cards. With a few games left, coach Darije Kalezic has left the country without lasting a full season. You need only to look at his career resume to see what a terrible appointment he was.

And how can fans trust the club to get a decent replacement? In fact, the next coach will have to be more than decent because that clock is ticking.

And the all-important question will ring increasingly loudly — just what value at all does the Phoenix’ presence bring to the A-League?

“Save the Phoenix” might even become a slogan. “Squatters out” might be more apt.



Code-swapper’s contract stands up to scrutiny

After Etene Nanai-Seturo’s departure from the Warriors to pursue a rugby career, there was much debate as to which side “won” in the battle for his services.

The answer seems fairly simple — he’s now playing for the New Zealand Sevens team and possibly the Chiefs in Super Rugby, so it must be the 15-man code right?

Well, yes, but the situation is a little more nuanced. To be dreadfully egalitarian, I think all parties have what they want. The 18-year-old is now playing his preferred code, and New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has its man after a confidential settlement was reached with the Warriors.

But a firm precedent was set, and that is what the Warriors were actually fighting for. In obtaining Nanai-Seturo, NZR had to acknowledge a binding, standard NRL contract had been signed by the then 15-year-old in 2014.

The contract stood up to scrutiny and couldn’t be circumvented, as was thought to be the intention of the Chiefs in particular.

The Warriors knew Nanai-Seturo’s heart was in rugby union and weren’t going to get in the way of that pursuit. But they couldn’t be railroaded into letting him go for nothing, not when they’d done everything by the book.

The standard practice of a player needing to be “released” from a professional sporting contract had been preserved, and the next time NZR comes looking for an already contracted player they’ll have to be ready to negotiate.


PS: You may have noted I was bang-on the money with my Halberg Awards picks last month. No inside information, no help, just pure genius!

Okay, so they were the easiest to pick in a decade, but who cares when you clean up, right?

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